By: Dawn Berry Merriam, Hon. B.A., M.A. Planning & Research Associate, Merriam and Associates and Debby Keating, Manager, Employment Programs & Academic Upgrading Fleming College
Following trends throughout Canada, the workforce in Peterborough, Ontario is aging rapidly with more people retiring or leaving work than those entering the workforce. Peterborough recognizes the role that newcomers can play in filling these employment gaps and ensuring economic growth. In 2014 the Peterborough Partnership Council on Immigration Integration (PPCII) produced a report that identified that the ability of newcomers to be successful is contingent on having a local workplace that is open to investing in newcomers, being tolerant of different cultures and learning styles, and providing
training programs that help build English skills and educate on Canadian culture.
Over the past two years, Peterborough, like other communities, has welcomed many new refugees due to the Syrian crisis and the community is being encouraged to accept more. In 2016 the Peterborough Immigration Partnership (PIP), a renaming of the PPCII, began working with local businesses and community groups to help them achieve the goals articulated in its Community Immigrant Integration Plan 2016-2021 to ensure that newcomers have a meaningful social and economic integration. Enhanced employment services are part of these goals.
Fleming CREW Employment Services recently completed research to identify how employment services can best help newcomers secure and retain jobs to allow them to successfully integrate into our community.
The research was designed to answer the following questions:
newcomers, local employers, local employment services and others who support newcomers such as sponsor groups. Input was sought from employment services outside Peterborough who have established services supporting newcomers.
Newcomer Voice: “I have trouble with people understanding me!”
The report that was prepared identified the barriers that challenge or prevent newcomers from securing and retaining employment. It documents the skills, competencies and characteristics that employers seek in the employees they hire. The analysis goes on to identify gaps in our service delivery system. A series of recommendations addresses how to how to build capacity in the employment and training sector.
Newcomer voice: “My greatest asset is giving 100% of my heart.”
In essence there is a need to educate and inform employers about the contributions
newcomers make and develop an ability to match newcomers to jobs. The report identifies the importance of preparing newcomers for their job search in Canada and providing assistance to
newcomers in accessing training and education opportunities. One of the strongest messages was that newcomers need help in navigating and accessing employment and training services – there is a need to develop and deliver a service model for small-mid-size communities that helps address these employment needs.
Others that Support Newcomers Voice: “Newcomers think they will have very good
English within a year, however, they are facing a reality check that it takes much longer.”
These were five key themes that were derived from the research and consultation. A series of
recommended directions were developed based on these themes:
Employer voice: “I much prefer to hire someone who I can depend on to show up for work and be focussed on doing their job. If they can do this, I am happy to train them on the hard skills.”
Other lessons learned include the need for:
diversity training for a changing workplace, mental health supports for newcomers, access to support services in order for newcomers to be able to be successful in the workplace.
Newcomer voice: “I feel very much alone and don’t know who or where to turn for help.”
As well, two employment service strategies were piloted: a workshop on workplace culture in Canada and a resource tool on employment law in Canada. The workshop and resource tool have been made
available to local employment service providers and made available to others across the province at www.flemingcrew.ca/.
Read the full report.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.